Easygoing Maurer turns up fire in games

Easygoing Maurer turns up fire in games

SAN DIEGO -- Something changes in Brandon Maurer when the bullpen doors open and his name is called.

Laid back and reserved in the clubhouse, Maurer is among the most fiery and demonstrative Padres pitchers on the mound. He punctuated Friday's victory over the Giants -- his first save of the season -- with a strikeout of Denard Span and a fist pump/glove slap.

"It's a lot of fun to watch, that switch that he flips," said Padres catcher Austin Hedges. "When he walks out on the mound, it really doesn't matter whether it's a close situation or not. He's fired up, and he's ready to compete."

Added Padres manager Andy Green: "I love the Brandon Maurer I saw yesterday. You could see the look in his eye that he wanted the baseball. The guy in the clubhouse is incredibly laid back, fun-loving, guys like being around him."

In a strong back end of the bullpen, Green named Maurer his closer early in Spring Training (though he noted certain situations could ultimately call for one of his left-handers in the ninth instead).

Maurer struggled last season, posting a 4.52 ERA. He got off to a slow start, part of which could be attributed to a failed attempt at converting him into a starter last spring. During that time, Maurer tinkered with a curveball, which had an adverse effect on his power slider.

But Maurer's slider returned in the second half last season, and so did his effectiveness. His ERA dropped nearly three full points over the final 3 1/2 months. Not coincidentally, his average slider velocity jumped from 85.2 mph to 86.7 mph in the second half of the year.

Clearly, the Padres feel Maurer has the temperament to pitch in high-leverage situations. What does he enjoy so much about them?

"Dude, that atmosphere," said an ever-unassuming Maurer, referring to his performance in the home opener. "The fans want the win for the ball team. I want to give it to them."

Capps set for rehab

Righty reliever Carter Capps threw a simulated inning before Saturday's game. He threw about 25 pitches, allowing a gapper to Christian Bethancourt, but no further contact.

Capps, who hasn't pitched since Tommy John surgery last March, is ticketed to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday at Class A Lake Elsinore.

If all goes according to plan, Capps will make two rehab appearances at Lake Elsinore before progressing likely to Triple-A El Paso.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.